The sounds of a famous patriotic hymn I Vow to Thee My Country rang out in the main hall of Uckfield Community Technology College (UCTC) yesterday – almost 60 years to the minute that it was sung at the school’s official opening.
The moment was recreated as guests at the re-dedication ceremony joined the college’s Combined Chamber Choir, Lower School Choir and Staff Choir, conducted by head of music Rob Wakeling, to sing the first verse of Gustav Holst’s work. See video below.
Another echo of the opening ceremony came with the first piece of music to open the proceedings, Sheep May Safely Graze, performed by the senior flute choir.
The Marquess of Abergavenny, whose father Lord Rupert Nevill officially opened the school in 1953, unveiled the anniversary plaque.
Technology teacher Rory O’Connor had made and mounted the plaque on a piece of wood recently removed from a science lab which was part of the original “fit-out” of the school.
Two letters – one from a former student and the other from a former teacher – were read by sixth formers Alastair McGinnes and Phoebe Lee. The former student, who went to the school in 1964 at the age of 11 recalled how she and her friends played the game Jacks at every breaktime and how she hated swimming in the old outdoor pool in early summer and autumn.
She said the then Uckfield secondary school had helped her journey in life to be successful and had enabled her to reach her potential at a time when secondary education was seen as second best.
The letter from the former teacher, Dick Moss, who was at the school in 1953 recalled how he helped establish a strong drama tradition with the help of fellow teacher Howard Gilbert, who was in the audience yesterday.
Mr Gilbert (pictured), who now lives in Hemel Hempstead, joined the school in 1954 and taught history until moving on to Watford in 1960. When in Uckfield he lived in Church Street.
Current principal Hugh Hennebry in his remarks wondered what the first headteacher, Mr Harold Pearmain, would have said at the opening.
He believed he would have spoken about the students being at the heart of everything they did and that was still the case today.
Town mayor Ian Smith said it was a wonderful school which provided a great community spirit.
Lord Abergavenny was introduced by Elizabeth Funge, head of education improvement at East Sussex County Council. The vote of thanks was given by Adrian Brown, the chairman of governors.
Year 11 pupil Tim Bramly played the piano before guests took their seats in the hall for the ceremony.
He recalled the school being “practically a building site”. The dining room was the hub of activities – where meals were taken and assemblies held. There were only four classrooms at the time.
The senior flute choir, which played Sheep May Safely Graze, comprised Gracie Maddison, Gina Ross, Jess Baldock, Aoife McAteer, Katie Davies, Kirsty Gladman and Amelia Warren.
The Skye Boat Song was performed by Year 13 students Beth Ellwood, Amy Davis, James Brock, Adam Rose, Shaun Trueman, Sam Rattray, Oli Goward and Rob Cass. (Students’ names as listed in the official programme for the event).